This I Believe

John - Landenberg, Pennsylvania
Entered on August 16, 2006

This I Believe

I believe in music, in its power to help our spirit soar, and in its power to comfort us during the darkest of times.

Music has always been part of my life – listening to classical music as a child, playing trumpet as a teenager, and later singing in church choirs. If my life story were painted on a canvas, then were it not for music, the colors on that canvas would be far less vibrant. Let me recount a few examples of how music has impacted my life – examples that I hope will resonate with your experience.

I recall leaving a Christmas vespers service as a freshman at Hope College, having just played with a brass group before the service and then listening to the wonderful music that was performed. Afterwards, I walked back to my dorm with a few flakes of snow drifting past. The feeling of serenity, peace, joy – it truly cannot be put into words.

It was 2 am when, after many hours, my wife and I finished typing the last page of her Master’s thesis. Since it was too late to go out to celebrate, we put on the “Hallelujah Chorus” and danced around the living room like a couple of hyperactive 5-year-olds.

The hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past”, sung at the memorial service for my grandmother will even now often bring a lump to my throat – along with fond memories of my grandmother.

Broadway musicals are a special love. Certain songs always tug at the heartstrings. Listening to “Think of me, think of me fondly, when we’ve said goodbye,” always gets me thinking of good friends with whom I have failed to keep in touch. The stirring refrain of “Do you hear the people sing?” from Les Miserable never fails to remind me of the indomitable human spirit.

The last example comes from when my wife was suffering through a very severe depression and had been hospitalized for close to three months. Worrying about and caring for a sick spouse takes its toll on one’s own health. I began to feel quite alone and overwhelmed, and was not sure how much longer I could bear the strain. One evening I sat listening to “Prayer of St. Gregory” by Alan Hovhaness. I remember thinking, “Please God, show me that things will be okay.” This piece of music has phrases where you hear the plaintive tones of the trumpet, while in other passages the music is soft and calm, as if one is listening, waiting for a response. As I sat listening to one of those soft, calm passages, I heard or perhaps felt someone tell me that everything would be better. I did not instantly feel better. Yet, somehow I again knew things would be okay. I now believe that it was that “still, small voice of God” that spoke to me. I further believe that music enabled me to hear that voice.

This is why I believe in music.